Slave to the Blog: The Lou Reed edition


Only someone as jaded as Lou Reed could make sense of these stories.



Cleaning up my mailbox after a recent trip to Australia, it hit me that only someone as jaded as Lou Reed could make sense of these stories. 

Vicious/Waves of Fear/Video Violence—A while back I did a Pogues-themed post and when I got to the story on Dennis Rodman’s drunken escapades, I was at a loss as to which Pogues song to choose since half their catalog addressed drunkenness. (Topically, Kenneth Bae has recently credited one such drunken Rodman rant (for which Ambassador Rodman sincerely apologized afterwards) for (inadvertently) contributing to Bae's release). Similar dilemma here: North Korea is spewing violent threats (honestly, I’ve lost track of all of them and by the time you read this they will have probably issued a few more) so where does one start? I decided to skip “Kill Your Sons” (the title fits but the lyrical content doesn’t) and just go with the trio above. The ironically named Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland recently threatened to “eliminate” South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and target the Blue House with “ultra-precision strike means.” And just so Seoul doesn’t feel lonely, Pyongyang put out a video depicting a submarine launched nuclear warhead taking out the US Capitol.

Satellite of Love—But not to worry, those rockets they’ve been firing, they’re really satellite launch systems, not baby ICBMs, right? Uh, maybe not: South Korean authorities report that the nosecone that they salvaged from the February launch is inconsistent with being a satellite delivery vehicle, lacking the necessary systems to protect and stabilize a satellite during the lift-off phase.

Waiting for the Man—One of the articles I read claimed that Kim Jong-un orders missile launches as an anger response (I usually just throw chairs). And, after the last three missile launches basically failed, there is considerable speculation regarding a fifth nuclear test, on the logic that Kim needs a success story in the run-up to the Korean Workers Party congress slated to begin Friday. Kent Boydston pointed out that DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong's claim (in the above link) that national defense will be a third-tier priority at the KWP Congressafter economic development and improving living standardsis literally not what songun ("military first") means. We might be seeing a subtle (or not so subtle) shift in North Korea's songun policy. We'll see. Whatever the overarching message is, the Sunday Times reports that Kim has banned weddings and funerals ahead of the big KWP shindig. Well, at least he hasn’t yet gone all Shaka Zulu on us, at least not yet: according to one account, “in 1827, Shaka’s mother, Nandi, died, and the Zulu leader lost his mind. In his grief, Shaka had hundreds of Zulus killed, and he outlawed the planting of crops and the use of milk for a year. All women found pregnant were murdered along with their husbands. He sent his army on an extensive military operation, and when they returned exhausted he immediately ordered them out again. It was the last straw for the lesser Zulu chiefs: On September 22, 1828, his half-brothers murdered Shaka. Dingane, one of the brothers, then became king of the Zulus.”

Martial Law—But the Young Marshmallow Marshall may not be the only politician on the scene with a hazy grasp of lawful governance. Donald Trump, last seen in this blog urging China to make Kim “disappear,” is back. Campaigning in Indiana, the gift that keeps on giving, who among other things would like to make it possible to sue newspaper columnists for having the wrong opinions—not facts, opinions, instructed the Chinese to “strangle” North Korea to bring them back to the negotiating table or he would wreak “a depression the likes of which you have never seen” on the Chinese, who “have been sucking our blood.” “You tell them (Chinese), we are going to - either you are going to have to straighten out this North Korea problem or we are not going to be doing so much business with you.”

In that earlier post, I likened Trump to an aging Mafioso subcontracting a hit job to a biker gang. I dunno: Don Corleone has a better ring to it than Don Trump.

My Red Joystick—OK, this one is a bit of a stretch, but this story is so bizarre that I had to come up with something. Subject to an aviation fuel embargo, Air Koryo reportedly flew a flight to Bangkok with no passengers on board. According to the Yonhap story “Thailand approved the U.N. sanctions resolution on April 19 and warned of possible implications for Thai companies doing business with North Korea and North Korea-operated flights.” As a consequence, the Chinese intermediaries who had been recruiting passengers for the flight indicated that they wanted out.  In a similar vein, I have been told that one of the tour operators is organizing an airshow for Wonsan. An odd use of fuel if one is under an embargo.

For our last item, I consulted our non-resident expert on semiotics, Dr. Daniel Marcus.

Noland: “Did Lou Reed write any song about condoms?”

Marcus: “No.”

Noland: “OK, did he write anything about general sexual befuddlement or confusion?”

Marcus: “Not by Lou. Not his thing.”

So not being the ultimate Lou Reed fanboy (I’ve always had a thing for John Cale), I’ll admit I had to resort to google on this last one:

The Original Wrapper—OK, so one critic describes this track as “not only the worst song he’s ever recorded, it’s a complete annulment of everything that ever made him cool.” But at least it contains an arguably veiled reference to condoms and its title echoes the NK News story “Under wraps: Do North Koreans use condoms?” The answer, it seems, is basically “no.”  And that’s really a bad thing: as I wrote in an earlier post, recent moves to restrict access to birth control and criminalize IUDs and abortions potentially risks the havoc of orphans and HIV that resulted from similar actions undertaken during the rule of Nicolai Ceausescu in Romania.

So on to the final big decision: what video to close the post? “Sweet Jane” has the obvious mass appeal.  Some would like “A Perfect Day.” “Venus in Furs” great, but too narrow. I love “Coney Island Baby.” “Sister Ray” has the market on whack cornered. “Heroin” is arguably his greatest song, though some would put “Street Hassle” and basically the whole album “Berlin” on the same pedestal. But the dude is dead and we have to contend with idiots in both North Korea and the US. And that, friends, calls for a one-two punch of “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Rock and Roll.”

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